This Date in Pirates History: January 2
Born on this date in 1951 was all-star third baseman Bill Madlock who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1979 until 1985. He was originally drafted by the Washington Senators in 1970 and made his major league debut in 1973 after they moved to Texas. After just one season he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins. The Cubs dealt him to the Giants in 1977 and after 2 1/2 seasons they traded him to the Pirates in a six player deal on June 28, 1979. Madlock played 85 games for the Pirates after the trade and hit .328 with 44 RBIs and 21 stolen bases, helping them to an NL East title. In the playoffs he hit .250 in the NLCS then .375 with three runs batted in, to help the Pirates to their fifth World Series title.
Madlock had a down year in 1980 hitting just .277 after never hitting below .298 in any season. He followed that up with a .341 batting average to lead the NL in 1981. It was his third batting title, he won two with the Cubs during the 1975-76 seasons. He also made his second all-star appearance with the first one coming in 1975. Madlock tied a career high with 154 games played in 1982 and he would hit .319(2nd in the NL to former Pirate Al Oliver) while setting career highs with 92 runs scored, 19 homers and 95 RBIs. He finished 11th in the NL MVP voting. The 1983 season was the last good season for Madlock, he hit .323 to win his fourth batting title, made the all-star team for his third and final time and finished 8th in the NL MVP voting, the second highest finish of his career behind his 1976 season.
Bill slumped down to just .253 in 103 games in 1984 although he had numerous minor injuries throughout the year and missed the end of the year due to right elbow surgery. In 1985 he was hitting only .251 through 110 games when the Pirates traded him to the Dodgers for three players. He would hit .360 the rest of the way, helping the Dodgers to playoffs where he hit .333 with three homers and seven RBIs. Madlock played two more seasons in the majors, finishing with a .305 career average in 1806 games. While with the Pirates he hit .297 with 392 runs and 390 RBIs in 801 games.
Also born on this date was pitcher Jeff Suppan (1975), who pitched for the 2003 Pirates. He had a 17 year big league career, going 140-146, 4.70 while playing for seven different teams. Suppan signed a one year contract with the Pirates as a free agent on January 31, 2003 and remained with the team until the trading deadline later that year. He went 10-7, 3.57 in 21 starts for the Pirates, equaling his career high in wins, which he actually reached three straight seasons with the Royals(1999-2001). At the end of July, the Pirates traded Suppan to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that brought back Freddy Sanchez and Mike Gonzalez. He ended up having his best seasons after signing with the Cardinals in 2004, winning 16 games for two seasons in a row. Suppan also got a chance to start a World Series game in both the 2004 and 2006 seasons.
Some other brief mentions for birthdays on this date, including three years in a row in the 1890’s that former Pirates players were born:
Bill Wagner (1894) was a backup catcher for the Pirates from 1914 until 1917. He began his pro career in 1914 and bounced between the minors and majors for the first three years getting into a total of just 27 games with the Pirates through the 1916 season. He finally spent the entire season in the majors in 1917 playing 53 games in which he hit .205 with nine RBIs in 151 at-bats. Right after the season ended the Pirates sold him to the Boston Braves where he finished his major league career in 1918. He played two more minor league seasons before retiring from pro ball. He was no relation to Honus Wagner, his teammate for all four seasons in Pittsburgh. Bill Wagner batted .205 in 80 total games with the Pirates.
Jesse Altenburg (1893) was a teammate of Wagner from 1916 until 1917. He played four seasons in the minors before getting his first chance at the majors after hitting .320 in 109 games for Wheeling of the Central League. The Pirates brought him to the majors in mid-September for the last two weeks and he hit .429 in eight games, going 6-for-14 with a double and triple. He started the 1917 season with the Pirates but was let go after just a month due to a .176 average in 11 games. He never returned to the majors, finishing his playing career in the minors in 1924. He also managed for four seasons in the minors.
George Boehler (1892) pitched for the 1923 Pirates. Prior to that he got limited playing time in the majors, pitching 37 games for the Tigers over five seasons before spending the next three years in the minors. He returned to the majors with the Browns in 1920 but pitched just four games over two seasons. Boehler spent the entire 1922 season in the minors but he did all he could do to earn another shot in the majors. Pitching for Tulsa of the Western League he pitched 62 games, throwing a total of 441 innings and he won 38 games. The Pirates signed him for the 1923 season and he started the second game of the year, giving up seven runs to the Cubs in a loss. After one more start he was moved to the bullpen where he was used sparingly, making just eight appearances between April 24 and July 16. He returned to the minors, getting one more brief trial with the Dodgers in 1926 before finishing his career in the minors in 1930. Boehler won 248 games over 17 seasons in the minors and he went 6-12, 4.71 in 61 major league games.
Jack Neagle (1858) Pitcher/outfielder for the 1883-84 Alleghenys. Neagle made his major league debut in 1879 with the Cincinnati Reds and went 0-1, 3.46 in two starts. He didn’t pitch in the majors again until four years later and had a crazy season. He started in Philadelphia and went 1-7, 6.90 in eight games, then moved to Baltimore, where he went 1-4, 4.89 in six games. Neagle then came to Pittsburgh, where he was 3-12, 5.84 in 16 starts. In three stops, he finished with a 5-23, 5.94 record and threw a total of 221.1 innings. In 1884, he had a much better ERA, but the record barely improved. Neagle went 11-26, 3.73 in 38 starts. He threw 37 complete games. Pittsburgh finished that season 30-78, so they were actually a little better with him on the mound. Neagle took some turns in the outfield, playing there 15 times in 1883 with Pittsburgh and another six times the next year. He wasn’t much of a hitter though, batting .165 in 70 games with the Alleghenys and .176 with no homers in 369 career at-bats.
Sam Crane (1854) played middle infield for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. Crane was a light hitter with an average glove who bounced around between 1880 and 1889, playing in the majors for six of those ten years with six different teams in three different leagues. He played in the minors with Scranton in 1888 then was out of pro ball in 1889. When the Player’s League was formed for the 1890 season it created eight more major league teams and the need to fill those rosters so Crane returned to the majors with the New York Giants. After two games he was shipped to Pittsburgh where he played 22 games, hitting .195 while playing 2B and SS. He returned to the Giants to finish his career, playing another two games for them in 1890. In his career he hit .203 with 183 runs scored and 45 RBIs in 373 games. Crane went on to become a famous sportswriter after his playing career ended.
Ed Wolfe (1929) Pitcher for the 1952 Pirates. Wolfe was signed as an amateur free agent by the Pirates in 1949. He spent three seasons working his way up the minor league ladder before making the Pirates out of Spring Training in 1952. During the 1951 season, while playing for Charleston of the South Atlantic League, Wolfe went 11-10, 3.10 in 21 starts and 12 relief appearances. With the Pirates, he made all of his appearances within a seven day stretch. In his debut against the Reds on April 19th, he gave up two runs on two hits and a hit batter in 2/3 of an inning. The next day, he gave up one run on four hits over two innings in the second game of a doubleheader against Cincinnati. Wolfe made his last appearance five days later, throwing a scoreless inning against the Cardinals, though he did allow a hit and two walks. He was returned to the minors shortly thereafter and he went on to win 15 games for New Orleans of the Southern Association that season. Wolfe played in the minors until 1955, spending his entire seven year pro career in the Pirates system.